Big deals can happen at comic book conventions, even for the young. Late last month on the final day of Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, writer Matt Fraction and his six-year-old son Henry Leo successfully pitched BOOM! Studios on an “Adventure Time” comic book story.
While Fraction has plenty going on as it is — beyond current comic projects like “Hawkeye” at Marvel and “Sex Criminals” and “Satellite Sam” at Image Comics, he’s also written for the current season of Starz’s “Da Vinci’s Demons” — he told CBR News he was motivated to pursue the opportunity due to his son’s undeniable creativity.
“Basically, selfishly, I wanted to do something with my son, who’s been drawing compulsively and telling stories since he could first hold a pencil and speak, and he’s been making his own comics for literally two of his six years now,” Fraction said.
The release date and issue number of the father-and-son collaboration will be revealed soon, according to BOOM!, but Fraction disclosed that the story involves “Finn learning a huge secret” through a message from Billy the Hero, who first appeared in the “His Hero” episode in the first season of the Cartoon Network series.
“This is everything we love about Adventure Time, and why it’s truly ‘all-ages,'” BOOM! editor-in-chief Matt Gagnon told CBR. “Early on in the ‘Adventure Time’ comics, we had Chris Roberson and his daughter Georgia write a story, as well. That’s what’s so amazing about this show: Parents and their children can both genuinely enjoy it, find equal ground there, and that’s really something special. It’s even more cool when they can share their creativity with one another.”
“Henry is a total champ, and I can’t wait to finally read the ending of his story since he and his dad wanted me to be surprised!” Shannon Watters, editor of the all-ages KaBOOM! line, added.
Fraction shared with CBR News a detailed account, which follows below, of the “freelancer nerves and dad nerves” conjured by the pitching experience, and the “right out of monomyth” story devised by his son.
CBR News: Matt, pitching a comic book story with your son certainly must have been a unique experience — what was the meeting with BOOM! like?
Matt Fraction: I was nervous — a pitch is a pitch is a pitch, let alone one where there’s a kind of performative aspect for my own kid, y’know? Freelancer nerves and dad nerves. The meeting went great though. Henry was dressed as Finn so clearly he was channeling pure hero energy. It was the last day of ECCC. Total madness.
We kneeled — well, I kneeled, he stood, I’m tall, he’s only tall for a six year-old — across the table from Shannon Watters, the book’s editor, who Ryan North, writer of the main book, put me in touch with — and a large group of incredibly gifted cartoonists that are a part of both the “Adventure Time” books and BOOM! itself were there too. And we just told the story we came up with the best we could in the order it needs to be told to see if they’d be interested in letting us write it up. You’d have thought we were a doubles act, it went so well, he and I. It was great. I was so proud of him.
And when we’re done, we’ll have a cool thing he can give to his class and I can go talk to a bunch of kids about comics and how to make them and stuff.
Obviously it’s still early at this point, but is there anything you would like to share about the story, and how it came to be?
Well, a few places. I’d seen Brian Bendis and his daughter Olivia cook up “Takio” and was jealous. I want to say she was about six when they started. Then last year at Thought Bubble in Leeds, I met Ethan Nicolle of “Axe Cop” fame and that just reinforced the feeling of wanting to harness some of that pure kid genius, that unsullied, uncynical, amazing thing that kids have in them that we get beaten out of ourselves as we get older.
Basically, selfishly, I wanted to do something with my son, who’s been drawing compulsively and telling stories since he could first hold a pencil and speak, and he’s been making his own comics for literally two of his six years now.
Anyway one day he was drawing an “Adventure Time” scene and telling me stuff that happens in it. And I knew Ryan a little bit and thought — well, hey, maybe we could do a story together. I asked him if he’d be interested in trying it — he tends to want to fly solo — and he was into the idea of collaborating. Really, I just think he wants to work with me because I’m a better typist. Anyway.
So, lately, because of a few spoken-word engagements, I’ve really been trying to figure out, for the first time, just what, exactly, my creative process is and how it works. And I’m thinking a lot about particles and how they come together — about random, lone, loose ideas, and how our minds, or my mind anyway, turns chaos into a signal. Pattern recognition? Pattern invention? I think there’s something about how some people can look at a bunch of loose data and start to force it into shapes, into logic. Some people look up at the stars and just see points of light, others look up and see a hunter, a bear, a pot, whatever. Right? Right.
So I started to just apply that process to the stuff my son and I talk about, to kind of collect some of the particles that came out of my kid’s head. A “ghost-shadow generator” he built out of Lego. That just sounded cool. That sounded sort of “Adventure Time”-y to me. He had the idea that Finn learning a huge secret would be a cool story. OK. Right. And Henry loves Billy the Hero, from the episode “Finn Meets His Hero” and others. And Billy’s dead. So, okay, dead things can have ghosts, and we have a “ghost-shadow generator,” so maybe there’s a connection, a pattern. Maybe an anchor to hang a story on. Maybe Finn and Jake find a ghost-shadow generator to get a message from Billy — and learn some amazing secret in the process. That’s the core of our story.
The process thus far has been basically that — going through the fruit salad that is living with a six year-old in a permanent storytelling mode and taking out the right pineapples. And then of course checking with my co-writer to make sure he’s still into these pineapples.
The amazing thing came when Henry started to pull from the story-stuff in his head and turned it into a straight-up Joseph Campbell thing. Nobody will believe me but as he started to talk through the story, it grew a structure, right out of monomyth. There’s a brother battle, a night journey, a cave. Wholly unprompted by me. Amazing.
Here, Henry wants to type something:
I think that says it all.